As I remember it, my love for painting had two beginnings: one rooted in practice, the other in history. When I was a kid, I used to visit my grandparents’ house and paint with my Opa. He enjoyed painting and drawing and, in keeping with his profession as draftsman and metallurgy teacher, Opa was keen to teach me how to draw precisely (protractors were present).
I remember Opa’s enthusiasm in trying to teach me to draw an electrical socket and plug to scale. Eventually, after much erasing, we set up our workspaces–with more colourful paints–out in the garden. Like many kids, I scribbled and drew much before this, but when I think of the beginning of my love for the practice of painting, I think of the afternoon I painted this picture of my grandparent’s garden:
The other beginning of my love for painting was my introduction to the work of the Impressionist painters in my high school art class. As I describe in this post, I fell in love with the artwork of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists as a teenager as I was learning about art history for the first time. For over fifteen years now, I have loved learning about the lives of artists, the movements that their innovations created, and the historical contexts that made it all possible. The stories around the artworks and their connection to the lineages of images that came before and after them is both intriguing and inspiring.
In particular, it was seeing Monet’s haystacks, Van Gogh’s sun-drenched fields, and Toulouse-Lautrec’s bold curving lines, that sparked a visceral connection to art and a desire to understand this emotional reaction. I saved images by these artists and others, including Matisse and Derain, in a folder on my computer in the early 2000’s, and began to see a collage form of the bright colours, strong lines, and emphasis on light that I was drawn to.
A course book that I’ve held onto since undergrad is Critical Readings in Impressionism & Post-Impressionism. What I loved about this reader was the bringing together of two of my favourite things: the artworks of these movements and the art theory that expands them—a world I was just beginning to explore, and which was helping me to understand my own love for painting. This reader discusses the innovation of the work of Monet, Morisot, Seurat, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin and others. As I learned about both the historical contexts and the styles of this artwork, it deepened my appreciation of painting but most importantly it changed the way I looked at the world around me. I began to notice and understand that light and shadow are multi-coloured, that atmosphere and mood can be rendered and communicated, that the environment around us is always changing and is, moreover, worthy of our sustained attention and interpretation.
This is a little snapshot of the beginning of my lifelong journey loving the practice of painting and learning about its history (one small part of its history that ignited my general interest). In my next posts, I will explore my influences in more depth, including the art historical references as well as the contemporary landscape artworks which I am continually discovering and finding inspirational.
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